October 24 2017

The Art of Cover-Judging

Hi. For any there unfamiliar with my visage this is me:

How do I look? No, really, how do I look? Fine? Well, perhaps not fine … but okay, right? We’ll agree on that. I look okay.

Herein lies my problem.

In September this year I met with a ‘healthcare professional’ who was tasked with assessing me to determine whether I was deemed fit to return to the workplace. Fair-enough, I thought, they must do this. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to state my case and for my issue—uncontrolled epilepsy—to be recognised for what it is: a debilitating condition that renders me unable to work right now.

Post-war priorities – and a legacy

Whilst I don’t like handouts there are times in our lives when some of us are forced into corners not of our making and we must ask for support. That’s why our socialist welfare system was established, isn’t it?

Beveridge: Welfare Mastermind

Didn’t the post-war labour government under William Beveridge—identifying that those in need should be provided for—introduce the welfare system we recognise today along with the National Health Service to ensure the wellbeing of the nation’s citizens?

At a time when Britain was a bombed-out ruin, the nation was bankrupt and the population on rations, Beveridge brought in a revolutionary system to ensure the wellbeing of all. Not just the pampered and privileged one percent with eighty-five percent of the wealth, but everyone.

I apologise to my US friends who may be reading this, I realise things are somewhat different there. Our US cousins have overt capitalism, and their one percent—who just so happen to be the folks in power there—deem socialism to be an evil that must be avoided. We’re different here. Or, we like to think we are.

‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ is often viewed as a Marxist doctrine, but that’s a mistake. Karl Marx wasn’t the first with that view, nor was he the last. Labour mastermind Keir Hardy knew it, as did our good friend William Beveridge. Hell, even Barak Obama knew it, though he wasn’t allowed to assert his beliefs in such principles. Capitalism, you see. That’s another story for another time.

But, suffice to say, offering help to those who need it ultimately benefits everyone. It’s bound to. Just think about that one and you soon realise the truth of it. So, I approached my September appointment with a sense of justification. I viewed that daily seizures that represent a risk to me, and therefore to those around me, dictates that, for now, the workplace is an environment that I ought to avoid. It’s in everyone’s interest, I thought.

Apparently I was wrong.

This month I was advised that I was deemed fit to work and today I’ll be seeing my ‘work coach’ to discuss things. So, how exactly did my ‘healthcare professional’ judge that I was indeed how I appear to be—‘okay’?

I’ll tell you.

Ticking boxes

Ridiculous, isn’t it.

For one thing, all the documentary evidence I’d compiled, provided by non-prejudicial healthcare professionals, i.e. those doing a sterling job of ‘putting me to rights’, was ignored. Instead, my appointment was nothing more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise during which I was asked such as:

‘Can you make a cup of tea?’


‘Do you have trouble walking?’

At one stage I was given a piece of paper, asked to fold it twice, screw it into a ball and hand it back to my ‘healthcare professional’—who, I might add, was a physiotherapist.

‘What was the purpose of that?’ I asked, with some cynicism. Her reply:

This is to assess whether you can follow a three-stage instruction.

Monkey Tricks – Department for Work and Pensions style

Now, excuse my presumption but I like to consider myself to be an intelligent human being—one that just so happens to have epilepsy. So perhaps you can understand why I feel that this assessment, its monkey trick and its resulting findings to be disrespectful and contemptuous.

Perhaps I ought to have slumped in my seat a touch, drooled a little, not tried to articulate myself well, not have pride in myself or have any degree of self-respect.

Perhaps the lesion to my temporal lobe, and the area of ‘focal cortical dysplasia’ thought to be the root cause of my seizures, ought to have been worn on the outside that day. Then my ‘healthcare professional’ would at least have viewed these as ‘physical issues’ and the resulting prejudicial judgement avoided.

Oh, so it IS physical, then!

Burning injustice

Surely, in May this year when our prime minister, Theresa May, stated her ‘biggest shake up of mental health for thirty years’ to tackle the ‘burning injustice’ of current treatment, she wasn’t just delivering a soundbite in the name of political expediency. Surely, she was being sincere, and her promise simply hasn’t found its way to her front-line troops in the intervening five months.

And when in April I wrote to my MP, Martin Vickers, highlighting the ‘burning injustice’ of the government’s stance on welfare benefits for epilepsy sufferers and he replied offering his support should I need it, he wasn’t simply being pragmatic in the build up to the general election. Surely, the email I sent him on Friday last week asking for his support will be answered and not just ignored as it appears to have been.

Timely recognition or political soundbite?

There but for the grace of God …

Now there may be some out there who read this and ask:

‘Why should I, a working tax-payer, pay for you in your time of need?’

To this I would direct you to my ‘Epilepsy and me’ web page. Here you will see that, for most of my adult life I’ve disregarded my condition and, instead, prioritised work, earned a living and payed my taxes. You will realise that this has had a detrimental effect on me to the degree that I am where I am now—suffering multiple seizures each day, drugged to the point of intoxication and physically, mentally and emotionally unable to return to work.

I would also add that tomorrow you could be where I am today.

Twenty-first century Britain

Austerity measures or not, if our government can afford to fund its illegal wars in the middle east it can look after its own people. By 2020 our activities in Afghanistan alone will have cost every British household £2000. Collectively that amounts to a lot of medical treatment; a lot of support to those truly in need.

Hey, maybe the local hospital facing closure in your area could instead stay open, expand, provide a much needed service.

The cost of misplaced priorities

It seems that, despite reassuring soundbites, our own government and its minions don’t view things this way. Instead, rather than being viewed as a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of this country in need of temporary support, my present predicament renders me a statistic. An undesirable statistic. A statistic which (not who) should be moved from column ‘A’ on the balance sheet to column ‘B’.

I understand … I mean, those Sidewinder missiles and Drones don’t come cheap, you know.